Far-Flung Fun

Morgan Blackburn

Hurling axes, knives and throwing stars is usually associated with ancient times or adventure movies, but the thrilling recreational activity has caught on among everyday people.

Thawhoomp! The sound is loud and reverberating when someone hurls an ax that “sticks” into the large wooden target at The Firehouse Urban Axe Throwing venue in Ocala. Achieving that audible echo is just one of the challenges in the sport that has gained a lot of traction in the U.S. in the past few years.

A variety of themes employed on the 10 targets allow participants to fl ing axes, hatchets, knives and metal throwing stars at traditionally painted bullseye circles or a tic-tac-toe grid, or digitally projected games such as Zombie Hunter or Connect Four. For individual participants, duos or groups, the sport is akin to darts or bowling in terms of keeping score and even offers leagues and tournaments.

Percy Brunner
Morgan BlackburnStepping up to the red safety line to release your instrument of choice (none of which are razor sharp) might be a way to de-stress, work on your hand/eye coordination, be part of a family outing like a birthday party or a staff bonding activity. It also might feel a little bit like being an action star or a naughty child.

“People know that as a kid you’re not supposed to mess around with any of this. It’s still a weapon and can be dangerous,” explains Percy Brunner, a coach at the facility. “But to actually be allowed to do it, it’s like bringing out that inner child curiosity.”

Morgan Blackburn is the general manager of the venue, or the “axpert,” which is just one of the many puns to be found there. Go ahead, you can “ax” him anything!

His father, Lonnie Blackburn, a firefighter with Marion County Fire Rescue, is the owner of the business, thus the name. Morgan said his dad got the idea to open the facility while on a trip to Missouri for a wedding.

“The group was looking for something to do prior to the wedding and that ended up being ax throwing,” Morgan offers. “At the time, ax throwing was somewhat unheard of as a recreational activity in Florida, or at least as an indoor or ‘urban’ activity. He fell in love with the sport and, realizing this was a fun and addictive activity we were missing out on in our area, ended up thinking about how he could bring it home to Ocala.”

The business, which is affiliated with the World Axe Throwing League (WATL), opened at a location on Southeast 14th Street in March of 2019. Morgan notes, however, that they hope to be open at a new location, in the Paddock Mall, early this month. That venue will start off with eight target lanes and later add another four in a “party” room that can be reserved for a more private experience.

With the move to the mall, The Firehouse will be able to sell alcohol. Morgan says that since keeping everyone safe is their top priority, there will be a policy for on-site consumption. Guests also can purchase non-alcoholic beverages and are free to bring in their own food. Walk-ins are welcome but those who register online can receive a discount.

“Our guests are always changing and evolving, and at Paddock Mall we want to be able to off er them today’s top trends and destination uses,” states Jamie Zimbleman, general manager. “We are very excited to welcome Firehouse Urban Axe Throwing to our unique and diverse portfolio.”

No experience is needed to try your hand at ax throwing and Morgan says he feels it is akin to learning to ride a bicycle.

“When you begin, there is a learning curve,” he explains. “You have to consider your distance, your form, and that’s why our coaches are here to help you. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes to figure out the details and once you get one thing figured out, like the axes, then here come the throwing stars.”

He thinks the sport is “filling a gap in fun activities to do with friends.”

“The same thing gets old aft er a while, so something new and exciting will always be appealing to people,” he offers. “Customers love that it’s a challenging, yet easy to get the hang of, thrill. It’s just a great experience for a fun night out.”

To learn more, go to www.axethrowingocala.com

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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